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MLB Fraternizing and Pat Riley

By Mike Silva ~ May 9th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva.

This blurb on Sunday by ESPN’s Buster Olney (subscription required) caught my attention:

Before every game, position players on both teams will gather on the foul lines and do their last sprints before the first pitch, and often this leads to greetings in the outfield behind second base — hearty handshakes and hugs.

If Joe Torre, baseball’s new czar of on-field discipline, has his way, then this kind of thing will be curtailed. Torre has asked club staff members to nudge their players toward curtailing that kind of fraternization after the gates have been opened to fans.

Ironically, I watched this weekend (for the second time) the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Winning Time,” which chronicled the rivalry between the Knicks, Pacers, and Reggie Miller during the nineties. One of the topics that came up was the tough minded Knicks under Pat Riley. Not only were you not allowed to give up layups, but helping up the opposition from the floor was a fine. Riley specifically told his team he wanted them to be the hardest working, most professional, toughest, and hated team in the league. It worked, and in short orders headlines that referred to the Knicks as muggers became commonplace throughout the league. Riley also practices what he preaches as he won’t talk to good friend, and head coach, Byron Scott since he took over the head coaching job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How does this apply to baseball? Sports are a competition, and I think Torre is one to something. If I were running a professional baseball team I would ask the players to put their friendships aside as soon as they enter the ballpark. You are there to do a job, not reacquaint with your Players Association buddies. Outside of the ballpark that’s fine, but inside there should be some imaginary line drawn. Nothing bothers me more than seeing Derek Jeter, David Wright, or some runner at first paling around with the first basemen during the game. Personally, I think it takes away a competitive edge, giving a feel of a Sunday softball get together versus a Major League Baseball Game.

There is a rule in the books about fraternizing. Rule 3.09 states: “Players in uniform shall not address or mingle with spectators, nor sit in the stands before, during, or after a game. No manager, coach or player shall address any spectator before or during a game. Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform.”

According to an old MLB.com article by Joe Frisaro, one of the members of the umpiring crew would be designated to watch batting practice to prevent players from paling around. Umpires became lax about it sometime in the late eighties to early nineties. Now with rosters turning over each year it’s hard to not find a game on any given night where a good portion of the players haven’t been teammates at some point. This has led to pregame looking like a company picnic.

I am not sure of the details of Terry Collins and Joe Girardi‘s rules on fraternizing. Baseball intensity is far different than the NBA, but I would like to see more of the Riley credo on the diamond. This is especially true for the Mets, who could use an edge against teams like the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins who have consistently beaten them over the last few years. Girardi actually created a stir when manager of the Marlins in 2006 when he helped former teammate Jon Lieber with his mechanics when Lieber was pitching for the Phillies.

The fact that it takes MLB’s discipline czar to consider a rules implementation tells me the teams are losing more power to the Players Association. It wouldn’t get to this point if handled locally. Just like Pat Riley did with his Knicks teams.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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10 Responses to MLB Fraternizing and Pat Riley

  1. swedski

    You gotta be kidding me with this one! Respect is what competion is really about. Play fair play hard and show respect for your opponent, the refs and the fans. Sport earns its money from children and how they are trained, only 1% (PROBABLY EVEN LESS) of children and young adults who play a sport get into the pros. Sports is for learning, I know the pros have a different agenda but c’mon, respect is something they should be showing. If I was a High School Coach and taught my kids to not help the opponent up after a tough play what message am I sending to my kids, knock him/her down and win, rather than do your best, try as hard as you can and accept the outcome, which are much more important values than win at all costs!

  2. Anonymous

    Once again someone always misses the point of the article. First off no where in the article does he say “do not respect the other team.” Not once. Furthermore, he states that has Coach Riley put it the toughest, most professional team. Let me help put this into context for you … If you had ever played for a high school baseball team that had close ties to their rivals you might understand. On the field it’s all business. Don’t give a dirty slide, don’t intentionally throw at somebody and always take care of your teammates those are the things you teach your kids. Sure you hit someone harder then you intended you make sure he is ok and call the ump if their is a problem but that doesn’t mean you help him up. His teammates should be doing that. Grow up and get out of this touchy feely digital world. The real world doesn’t work like that.

  3. James

    Personally, I think the friendly nature of baseball is a *good* thing. It’s what separates it from the somewhat thuggish nature of basketball, or the deeply hostile interaction between players in football.

    Sounds like you want a league of Nyjer Morgans. Ugh. That’s not something I’d like to see more of in baseball.

  4. Graham

    more like they pal around with each other because at the end of the day we, (the suckers in the stands, and in front of the TV with with our Merch) are the only one’s who care about perserving competitive nature of the sport; they are concerned with paychecks, and by extention, personal numbers.

  5. Patrick

    Mike, from time to time we agree or disagree, or perhaps have a slightly different take on basically the same subject. On this you could not be more 100% dead on accurate. There is already a pre-existing rule and still this nonsense occurs daily at games.

    Not only should it be enforced, but players need to be publicly called out regarding this behavior.

  6. Greg Forrer

    I agree. Nobody needs to fear letting blood over high spikes, but I don’t like seeing ‘high fives’ between “my team” and the competition.

  7. Stu B

    It’s called “The Show” because the players are performers who each work for one of 30 franchises. Each game between two teams is a performance. While players on opposing teams are “enemies” within the context of a single game, they’re also colleagues in a larger sense. As such, I have no problem with some fraternization before or after a game, even on the field, as long as they stick to business during the game.

    Thinking of it this way puts a funny image in my mind. Imagine the scene at, say, Avery Fisher Hall, if the New York Philharmonic Orchestra played against the Boston Symphony Orchestra, lol! The orchestras could alternate playing works in each inning!

  8. me

    Sorry to say this column shows a sad, small-minded and mean approach to life. Of all the things to worry over, what a manufactured issue for Torre to invent!

    Being friendly with field opponents and showing it to the world is a good thing and a good message to young people. It’s unimaginable given how competitive these players are (and the huge differences in salaries that a few hits can make) that anyone is trying any less hard just because they’re also acting like human beings with their field opponents.

    Some players prefer to be alone and intense and antisocial and get into the right mental mood for play that way, while others play better when they’re calm and relaxed and have fun. Both obviously should be tolerated. If people want to watch a war, they have options. Baseball is a game, being friendly and respectful with fellow players on the other team is good sportsmanship.

  9. me

    PS – Pat Riley? How many championships did his policy of not helping up the man who’s down deliver?

  10. Anonymous

    I will say that with the rise of the payroll of most players that this is getting out of hand. I mean common people, if you work at a firm, coorperation or any job in which the value a well earned salary you may have co-workers they may be friends they may be enemies, but all in all you’re still competing for that promotion. MLB shouldn’t be any different. The pathetic moping of individuals concerned with only the wellfare of others is what will be the downfall of hard working people as American culture changes.

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